Monday, March 05, 2007

Lawsuit Against NSA: You Spied On Us And We Can Prove It

Last May, I wrote about the NSA's secret domestic spying program, the existence of which the Bush administration would just as soon have kept completely quiet, but couldn't:
...the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake what can only be described as a breathtaking and unprecedented operation involving domestic intelligence-gathering that targeted the telephone records of millions upon millions of unsuspecting American citizens.

Invading our privacy as never before. Illegally. Unconstitutionally.

And then, when called to the mat on this shocking affront to our rights, hiding behind that tired old "Gotta protect everyone from the terr'ists" line, and invoking (yet again) 9/11. In fact, when speaking about the domestic spying, 9/11 punctuated the first sentence out of the President's mouth. The only surprise is that we haven't been subjected to an Orange Alert this week. Yet.
In the ten months since, we've seen members of the (then) leading party embroiled in scandal after scandal--the Abramoff mess, the outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, the Mark Foley page scandal--and we've cringed at and wept about the magnitude of our leaders' gross incompetence, the ongoing death and destruction at every turn in Iraq, the unresolved chaos in Afghanistan, and the administration's utter lack of respect for what shredded, tissue-thin scraps remain of the Constitution. So I think we can be forgiven for our collective case of outrage fatigue.

Two attorneys in Washington D.C.--perhaps the only known targets of the NSA's illegal warrantless domestic wiretapping program who actually have concrete proof of the government's unconstitutional actions--are still fuming, though, and they're taking action (my bolds):

It could be a scene from Kafka or Brazil. Imagine a government agency, in a bureaucratic foul-up, accidentally gives you a copy of a document marked "top secret." And it contains a log of some of your private phone calls.

You read it and ponder it and wonder what it all means. Then, two months later, the FBI shows up at your door, demands the document back and orders you to forget you ever saw it.

By all accounts, that's what happened to Washington D.C. attorney Wendell Belew in August 2004. And it happened at a time when no one outside a small group of high-ranking officials and workaday spooks knew the National Security Agency was listening in on Americans' phone calls without warrants. Belew didn't know what to make of the episode. But now, thanks to that government gaffe, he and a colleague have the distinction of being the only Americans who can prove they were specifically eavesdropped upon by the NSA's surveillance program.

The pair are seeking $1 million each in a closely watched lawsuit against the government, which experts say represents the greatest chance, among over 50 different lawsuits, of convincing a key judge to declare the program illegal.

You may read the entire piece at Wired News. I, for one, will be following this case with tremendous interest. Should Belew and his colleague succeed, there is hope for the restoration of privacy rights we all took for granted until not too long ago. Next up: CPR for habeus corpus? A girl can dream.

Also at Shakes' place.

No comments:

Post a Comment